In the thousands of patients I have tested, they always come out poorly with this #1 back exercise. Why? It's a weakness we develop as soon as we start to sit in chairs, wear comfy shoes, walk on concrete sidewalks and live in homes with comfortable flooring. In many regards, these are beneficial inventions. However, if you've been following my blog, there is one point I continually make. Always remember: it is the dose that makes the poison. We use these moderns technologies to be more efficient or sit longer, however, if we depend upon them too much (our dose increases), we will lose our natural capacity to hold our own body correctly with optimal alignment - enter the poison of symptoms and pain!
Now if you are not in pain, what I'm about to say may not inspire you. I'm all over longevity and having my body last me as pain-free and disease-free as possible. What about you? I love to study, research and apply PREVENTION. Benjamin Franklin got it right when he said 'an ounce of prevention is worth a pound of cure.' Typically though, the average person will wait for pain to come knocking before they make a change and this change will only happen for as long as the pain exists. Ask yourself, how many quick fixes have you used to resolve your pain problem only to discover that it eventually returned, sometimes far worse. Dr. Ho? Chiropractor? Massage? Dry Needling? These can be excellent resources BUT (and it's a big but) you know your body better than anyone else. Remember, wherever you go, there you are! The real question you need to start asking yourself is - 'if I continue to do what I'm doing, in the way I'm doing it, will this be considered an ASSET or a LIABILITY in my postural account!'
Assets bring health, happiness and vitality = PREVENTION, while liabilities bring stress, tension and pain = REACTION.
Ouch! If you are in pain, or you can vividly recall what pain felt like the last time, you are likely inspired to want to make a change. Change comes from within. That inner calling and desire that says 'F$#k it, I'm done with this ____________(fill in the blank).' The words that follow from that declaration ARE CRITICAL. You must ask yourself HOW can I do this?
If you are truly committed in your pathway to health, happiness and vitality, the how's will start showing up. Cut off all other options. Use the F.O.C.U.S approach. My kids love this one (well, I love telling them over and over again, and they seem to receive it well!).
F - Follow
O - One C - Course U - Until S - Successful
Let me ask you this, if you are stood with one foot in your house and one foot out your house, are you coming in or going out?
It all depends on your INTENTION. Once you have your intention set, you FOCUS and then try one HOW, get some feedback, then if necessary make a correction and move onto the next tool, until you find what serves you the most. When do you stop. You don't. Persist until you finish your intention. Regular manual therapy treatments are incredible and I'll say, a necessity. However, over-dependence on anyone or anything outside of your four pillars of health - BODY, MIND, FOOD and RECOVERY - and you'll be continually frustrated with temporary 'fixes'.
Surgery after surgery I remember chatting with a guy in the sauna. He'd had two unsuccessful spinal surgeries and was reassured that the third would work like a charm. He then described to me exactly what I just laid out to you above. He found a strong intention (no more surgeries), focused (tried aquarobics) and his how became five or six times a week in the pool followed by a sauna session. He was pain-free and never needed the third surgery!
My #1 Exercise for Combating Low Back Pain (ideally before it creeps up on you!)
Introducing the Horse Stance Vertical. The whole idea behind this exercise is to stimulate and strengthen the intricate nerves, muscles and proprioceptors (the cool balance mechanisms in your body) which control your back posture. The better you are at this exercise, the stronger your back posture - and vice versa, if you struggle with this exercise, it is a sign YOU NEED THIS EXERCISE. We all need struggle in life. How can we get stronger without it? The whole concept of strength training is built upon a person overcoming his/her struggle with a heavy weight. The rewards are magnificent and translate to a healthy, happy body and mind.
My recommendations are to do this exercise every day for the first week to wrap your brain around the correct technique. Watch the video. Then watch again while following along. Consider using your smartphone and record yourself performing the exercise to ensure you are doing it correctly. Have a friend or family member video you and help provide feedback. You'll need one thing - either a foam roller or a wooden dowel (I recommend 7-foot long, 1.5-2" thickness which are cheap from a hardware store). This is an essential tool, as it provides the feedback of what your spine is doing when you do the exercise. Your goal is perform the Horse Stance without the foam roller or dowel deviating from a horizontal and parallel position. Anytime it moves or rolls, correct yourself and repeat until mastery. The muscles you are activating hold your spine stable and strong for you throughout your day-to-day activities - when they are awake! If you can't stabilize a stick on your back, guaranteed you can't stabilize your spine when you are walking. Add in running, jumping and twisting and you've just magnified your weakness which will rear it's ugly head when you are least expecting it!
Rx: Daily. Start with short holds and higher reps. Progress over the course of weeks to eventually one rep each side, holding each for 90-seconds. I'd skip a day or two if you are sore from the previous day. Recovery is where the magic of strength development happens!
If you enjoyed this post please share and be sure to check out my 4 Steps for a Stronger Spine blog post.
Yours In Health, Happiness & Vitality,
Jason Barlow, RMT.